Art as Therapy with WomenStrong DC: Part 1 of 3

To exercise their creative talents, the ladies of WomenStrong DC took part in a five-week Self-Portrait Silhouette Workshop taught by artists Lana Wong and Sabreena Jeru-Ahmed. The result was art as therapy: powerful, mixed-media self-portraits that provided avenues for the women to deal with personal issues ranging from death and illness to trauma and anger.

Here, they talk about the process of creating their pieces:

LaShawn stands next to the piece she created in homage to her son.

LaShawn Weathers

Anthony, my son, was killed in 2012 and so I made this piece as an homage to him. He was my first born son out of 8 kids and we were very close. If people saw me and didn’t see him they’d be like, “Where’s your other half?” (laughs).

The idea was to show him looking peaceful in the afterlife with me praying and trying to make peace with it here on earth. After years of feeling just sad and destroyed by his death, I now think of my son as my guardian angel. That’s why I put a wing and silver glitter over his picture. Butterflies are peaceful, so I think that was a nice touch. The mask I added because I like Mardi Gras. I think it’s fun so I put that one in there for me.  I also put ‘E4=Anthony’ at the end, which means ‘Everything for Anthony’ and I added his real obituary on there and the bookmark we gave out at his funeral service.

He was a role model, very hardworking and well-known. He had his own detailing shop. He was very loved and got lots of write ups after his death. Even today I still can’t understand why they killed my baby. It was Halloween and that day we took my granddaughter (his niece) trick or treating. He said I’ll see you later and I gave him a kiss and a hug, but the next time I saw him he was lying in the streets. I just think maybe God needed another soldier and that’s how I made peace with this. I say to myself, “Don’t let the trauma make you question life. Just keep on pushing.

Sylvia and her self-portrait

Sylvia and her self-portrait

Sylvia Ford-Scott

My silhouette is about myself and all the positive things inside me that I want to spread into the world. The finished thing kind of reminds me of the peacock and how colorful and proud it is with the feathers. I love the color purple, the brightness and boldness of it, and so that’s where I started. Then I added the jewelry to symbolize that I’m always wearing my Sunday best.

The symbol in the middle is ‘namaste’ and means ‘the God in me greets the God in you’. I wrote it in black as my way of saying ‘by fighting through your struggles, you can come into the light’. I thought that was an important point to make because a short while ago I was diagnosed with cancer. Thank God, now I’m cancer free, but that was a hard time in my life.

Ever since then, I have a whole new look on life. You can be funny, you can be grateful, you can be sociable, or whatever. Our hard times don’t define us. It took me two sessions to make it and it kind of came to me naturally. I’m very proud of it.


*Bread for the City’s WomenStrong DC is a proud member of WomenStrong International (WSI), a consortium of non-profit organizations in five nations supporting women-led solutions to urban poverty.*

Today & Tomorrow: Your donation DOUBLES!

As we put this difficult year behind us, Bread for the City is preparing to face the challenges of 2017 head on.

With over four decades of service under our belt, it is vital that our services continue and expand in the coming years, especially as budget cuts and changes to healthcare access appear imminentWill you give today to support our work? If you make a gift before midnight on December 31st, your gift will be MATCHED by a generous donor!

untitled-designRecently, we’ve had a number of conversations with our clients, recording their concerns about 2017 so that we are prepared to help. With 31% of DC residents (and 68% of Bread for the City patients) either uninsured or on Medicaid, the vulnerability of being without private insurance weighs heavily on them.

Ms. Kennedy, a client of our WomenStrong DC wellness program and our food program, is worried about her family as she looks ahead. She asks, “Lots of people’s lives depend on Obamacare. What are they going to do if it goes away? How is their health going to be affected? People that have cancer and need treatment, where are they going to turn?”

At Bread for the City’s Medical Clinic, we treat nearly 3,000 patients every year, including children, the elderly, and those facing homelessness. Will you help us reassure Ms. Kennedy that we’ll be here no matter what? Your gift today will help sustain our work as we continue to be a cornerstone of the DC community.

Looking forward in solidarity.

More potatoes to harvest, more people to help, more work to do. Why I serve.

Steven V. Roberts is a journalist, writer, political commentator, and Bread for the City board member.

Some years ago, my wife Cokie and I decided to stop giving each other Christmas presents and donate whatever we would spend on gifts to worthy local charities.

Bread for the City has always been one of our major beneficiaries, since we believed deeply in its mission of feeding the hungry, especially at holiday time. Then we attended the 40th Anniversary Gala two years ago and our commitment to the organization –and our knowledge of its wider mission—continued to deepen. Yes, we bought t-shirts (which our grandchildren wear proudly), but far more importantly, we came to understand that Bread did far more than feed people. We came to understand that the organization’s core insight made total sense, that its clients required a range of services that included medical treatment, legal advice and community advocacy—all in one accessible place.

Steve and Cokie Roberts at BFC's 40th anniversary gala

Steve and Cokie Roberts at BFC’s 40th anniversary gala

Within several months, after talks with George Jones and other Bread staff members, I agreed to join the board. I didn’t realize my education was only beginning.

At one meeting, I moderated a panel about expanding Bread’s presence in the Southeast community and learned a lot about the nature of our client base and the Washington real estate market. At another, I heard a marvelous presentation from the staff of WomenStrong-DC, an innovative program that focuses on supporting and empowering women as leaders. During the holiday season, I took my three grandsons who live here to volunteer on a Saturday morning. We thought we’d be filling grocery bags. Nope. You quickly learn that when you volunteer at Bread you do whatever needs to be done, no questions asked. That morning, a vast but very dirty load of sweet potatoes had come in from City Orchard, the BFC-run mini-farm in Beltsville that produces fresh fruit and vegetables for Bread’s feeding programs. So we spent two happy hours scrubbing those potatoes clean. Actually, one of my larger grandsons joined the team that hauled and stacked boxes. Another specialized in bagging the cleaned yams. A third got really dirty joining me on the scrub line. A great day, and at the next Board meeting I recommended the experience highly. Being part of the Bread family helps build a commitment to community service that’s far more effective than listening to a speech or a sermon.

So, now to the future. I know I have a lot more to learn and to contribute. For example, Bread knows that affordable housing is a key problem for many of our clients. Just look at the building boom surrounding our 7th Street center. Where are the people who used to live in our neighborhood going? How can they afford a new place? How can we continue to serve them when they need to take a couple of buses or metro rides to reach us?

My wife and I will be at the Good Hope Gala this year and we hope you’ll join us. The more you learn about Bread, the more you’ll be moved to support its vital mission. Every day, every dollar, every sweet potato makes a difference.

Cokie and I look forward to seeing you on April 30th.